Today my wife and I will celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary! Six years of being married to the same person – for me, I would say, this is a pretty big milestone. Believe it or not I’m not actually the world’s most amazing person, and living with me can, at times, be slightly difficult. The fact that Katie has been able to stay with me for this amount of time is a testament to her patience and kindness; it’s also a testament to the fact that I have been able to learn, grow, and change as time has gone by.
If I was the same Mike today that I was on June 30th, 2009, there would definitely not be an anniversary celebration today. Some people may not like that statement. A lot of people seem to think that when you get married the other person is marrying you as you are, and that means you are free from all responsibility of needing to change anything about your habits or personality. They should, “love me for me.” Yes, they should … and you should love them enough to be willing to learn, grow, and change as a person.
Being married for six years has taught me much about life, and about who I am as a person. It hasn’t always been fun to learn these things, and it’s certainly, at times, been humbling to admit them. However, it’s also taught me good things about myself and others, too! So, without further ado, here are the 6 things I’ve learned about love & life in 6 years of marriage.
#1 – I am not perfect, and neither is my partner, and that’s a good thing!
When I do premarital counselling with couples there is a section we go through called Idealistic Distortion. We look at statements like, “Every new thing I have learned about my partner has pleased me,” “My partner always gives me the love and affection I need,” and “My partner and I understand each other completely.” Well over 75% of the couples I work with answer these statements with “strongly agree.” This, of course, simply isn’t true and it’s OK to admit that!
So many relationships get in trouble because for so long we tell ourselves (and anybody else that will listen) that everything is perfect in my relationship and my partner is perfect. We distort the truth, especially in the beginning of a relationship and honeymoon stage of a marriage, to the positive direction. The longer the relationship lasts the harder this lie is to keep telling ourselves. We then begin to grow frustrated when our relationship and our partner stagger and fail to be perfect.
I am not perfect, and neither is Katie! Admitting that gives us the freedom to be people. We understand that the other is a person first and foremost and that means they are going to have some qualities that we don’t always enjoy. At times they might let us down, fail to care for us in the way we want, or react in a way that we don’t enjoy. That doesn’t change the fact that they are my partner and the love I have for them.
#2 – My wife is my biggest fan and that makes me a better person
Katie is honestly my biggest fan. She is a constant source of encouragement and positive reinforcement. Google tells me that, “In behavioural psychology, reinforcement is a consequence that will strengthen an organism’s future behaviour whenever that behaviour is preceded by a specific antecedent stimulus.” That is exactly true.
While I have plenty of negative character traits which my wife could focus on, she instead encourages me about the positive. She constantly expresses her love for me, and the traits I have that she enjoys, and as a result I continue to become a better person. The negative aspects of my personality are slowly but surely shrinking, while the positive grows thanks in large part to her encouragement. She is tricking me into becoming a better person!
We can choose to focus on the negative in people, but will that help? If focussing on the positive, and verbalizing that to people strengthens their future behaviour, what does focussing on the negative do? If you want a good relationship, not just with a spouse or partner but with anybody, spend a lot more time on the positive than the negative!